The job listings page on Cumulus Media’s website is about to get longer. Monday (Oct. 11) marked the deadline for employees to comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate but not everyone was willing to get a jab to keep their job. From Colorado Springs to Columbia, SC, station personalities and programmers have been forced out for not conforming with the policy.
In August, Cumulus became the first radio company to institute a policy, requiring that all employees receive their full dose of one of the available vaccines by Sept. 27 – two weeks prior to the scheduled return date as part of its “grand reopening.”
Tim Hill, Program Director and morning show co-host at sports “107.5 The Game” WNKT Columbia, SC, says he was fired for not receiving the vaccine. His last day on “The Early Game” was Friday. Hill says religious reasons and a lack of long-term medical studies led to his decision. “I don’t know what medical decisions are right for others,” he told The State. “Others don’t know what medical decisions are right for me.
“I felt like I had to stand up for it,” Hill continued. “I have three boys and tell them to stand up for what they believe in. It is my job to teach them that.”
A devout Catholic, Hill told The State he applied for an exemption based on religious beliefs but was denied.
Last month, Cumulus insiders said that most requests for exemptions for the vaccine mandate were denied by Cumulus Media corporate, including those who applied based on religious beliefs and for medical conditions. “They said they couldn’t reasonably accommodate me,” Hill said. “I offered to wear a mask or do the show from where our producer does it, or from home. They thought none of that was reasonable.” Hill also offered to have an air filtration system installed at the station and to use his own microphone. His 73-second video explanation of his firing has received more than 25,000 views.
Mandate Seen As ‘Unethical And Immoral’
Meanwhile in Colorado Springs, 13-year “NewsRadio 740” KVOR host Jeff Crank opted to walk away from the mic rather than comply with a mandate he calls “unethical and immoral.” Crank hosted a Saturday morning talk show on the station and once ran for Congress. He says he is not anti-vaccination. “I’ve already had coronavirus. I discussed the vaccine with my doctor and he recommended that I not take the vaccine at this time as there was very little risk to me contracting COVID and even less risk of having severe complications from COVID,” he told the Colorado Times Recorder. “I’m going to make my medical decisions after consultation with my doctor – and it won’t be forced onto me by the CEO of a company that I’ve never met or knows nothing about me.”
Crank said he plans to keep his show going as a podcast.
As reported Monday by Inside Radio, Roxanne Steele, co-host of “Broadway in the Morning” on Cumulus country WDRQ Detroit (93.1), departed after refusing to get a vaccine by the deadline. Country Aircheck is reporting that JB Cloud has left Cumulus country KBCY Abilene (99.7) over the vaccine requirement.
Keeping Employees Safe
It’s likely that other names will surface in the days ahead and that a similar scenario will play out among other companies that have instituted a similar mandate, including Beasley Media Group, Urban One and Univision. The goal is to keep employees, their families and the communities in which they live, healthy and safe. “We did not make this decision lightly, but we felt we had to act given the rapid spread of the Delta variant and scientific evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations help protect against serious illness,” Karen Wishart, Urban One’s Executive VP & Chief Administrative Officer, told Inside Radio in August. When adopting a similar policy, CEO Caroline Beasley told Inside Radio it was “the right thing to do… We’re back to work, and if one of our employees comes down with COVID, you're concerned about the health and safety of your employees and everyone else who’s working with them,” Beasley said.
Asked how many employees have left due to the vaccine policy, a Cumulus spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on personnel matters.
Personalities took to social media to explain to their listeners why they are no longer on the air. “I shouldn’t be bullied or forced to do something I don’t want to do, and that’s exactly what’s going on,” Steele wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s very un-American.”